Loshh Aje has PMA in spades. The Nigerian-born, London-based musician doesn’t recoil from the world as it is, and, in his music, searches for a way to express the inherent joyfulness of the struggle to feel okay. That’s how, deep into this winter of our discontent, he has managed to produce this EP full of unremitting fire, a collection of tunes that confidently argue against the idea that our current problems will form the permanent fabric of our lives. The traditions that influence him lead him to take this path; it’s one that doesn’t look away from hierarchies of exploitation, but it also does not allow history to cast its shadow over one’s every step. On his latest EP, ÍFARADÁ, he refuses to halt the progression of his celebration of life even as he confronts racial oppression.
To do this, Loshh goes all over the place musically, and this short EP manages to take its inspiration from ’00s post-punk revival, ’70s highlife, and straight-up blues. Take “Faji,” an elemental take on Lovers Rock that floats on a gnarled guitar melody and subdued horns. Over this aquatic dub, Loshh exhorts the listener to “Faji right now,” which (according to him) means “to enjoy to de fullest.” He speaks of “oppression for a long time” and says “we’ve been helpless for a long time/so let us faji.” It might sound desperate at first, but it isn’t a paean to dissolution as much as it’s a passionate sideswipe against the pain of the everyday.
Most of these songs occupy that uneasy space of rave and reflection that Linton Kwesi Johnson mapped out in records like Bass Culture and Forces of Victory. On “Revolution,” his casual condemnation of England’s participation in the slave trade parallels Johnson’s non-plussed recognition of imperial rot in “Inglan Is a Bitch”. Voice and guitar form the background to most of these tracks, and Loshh follows the twists and turns his guitar makes. Built around what sounds like the ca-ching of a cash register, sinuous album opener “É Beré” is the Loshh at his most Afrobeat. A whirring groove—a swell of congos horns, and strings—lifts Loshh up “to the moon and stars” and a guitar solo that appears at the midpoint takes him to the outer reaches of consciousness. From on high, Loshh muses on a place where he won’t be judged by the color of his skin, and where Black women are supported and loved. To punctuate his point, he screams, and his voice and the guitar become distorted in tandem; it almost sounds like he’s being transported to the place he dreams of.
Elsewhere on the album, Loshh feels content to merely make you move. The medley “Í” switches back and forth between gentle keys and gospel organ depending on what mood Loshh is in; when he confesses to just wanting to help his mom out you hear the former, and when he just wants to lose himself in forward movement you hear the latter. A song like “Feelam” radiates energy with its rolling drumbeat and high energy guitar, and the Rain Dogs-like atmosphere of “Brown” matches its boozy flirtation with self-reflection (“Look into my mind and tell me what you see/A beautiful soul?”).
On ÍFARADÁ, Loshh carries himself with the gravitas of a preacher, commanding you to reject what is inhumane without falling into despair. It’s a difficult ask, but it’s one that seems necessary at a time where much of the dominant discourse can lock one into a parade of pessimism. Loshh doesn’t ask you to ignore what is wrong with the world, and, in fact, he spends much of the record detailing the litany of horrors that have led us here. Yet, his way of engaging with this is through embracing the possibilities for joy inherent in this life. It is for that reason that he is ready to fight all that stands in his way.
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